Assistant Head (Admissions), Mrs Sally Petrie offers some tips on choosing the right school:
“The process of choosing the right school for your child can be an anxious experience for parents and children. Having been involved in 11+ admissions for over twenty years (and having been through it with my own three children), I understand just how much of a strain the Senior School entry process – a day of life changing significance – can be for parents, particularly if it’s their first time through what can feel like a time consuming and uneasy few weeks.
At times it can seem that every future happiness of your family rests on the contents of your child’s pencil case/brain: will the contents of both be sharp enough for the Herculean tasks that lie ahead? Irrational thoughts beset as you try to juggle both your nervousness and theirs; you arrive 90 minutes early on exam day and keep reminding yourself that it is better to be early than late. Your child sits quietly next to you, coat on, managing their own fears. It’s a strange hour to while away…
Actually, choosing the right school doesn’t have to be a painful experience at all. Here are ten tips for reducing the stress:
- Don’t worry about the actual Entrance Exam Day. They will have fun…no, honestly, I mean it. At Cheadle Hulme School, we introduced a fun activity as part of the day and haven’t looked back. The School is full of engaged, cheerful candidates acting, dancing, making music, cooking, drawing, sewing, exploding things (safely in a lab of course) and playing sport…as well as doing a few tests.
- Relax. You are incredibly fortunate to be in an area with a huge number of great schools, so you are likely to have more than one exciting option for your child.
- Don’t prepare for the interviews. Children genuinely do best when they can be themselves; indeed, we find that with an experienced team of staff who volunteer to interview because they enjoy it so much, conversation just flows naturally. Remember, too, that in the parent interviews, you are interviewing us!
- Forget the words ‘pass’ and ‘fail’. The Entrance Exams are all about matching children to schools where they are going to thrive. At Cheadle Hulme School we look for potential and for us, the school reference and the interview are just as important as the exam.
- Glossy brochures and carefully chosen photos on a school’s website might give you a broad impression of a school, but nothing beats a visit on a working day. We are always delighted when parents and children come to see us; we are proud of what we are every day.
- Look closely at the ‘end product’. Are the students you come across confident, happy, academically curious, ambitious? Do they display the kind of qualities you want for your child?
- If you can, talk to parents with children already at the school. They will give you the best feel for the place. We have a number of Cheadle Hulme School Parent Ambassadors, so if you don’t have any direct contacts, let us know and we will happily put you in touch with one of our parents.
- Try to resist being too swayed by where your child’s current friends are going. Our students tell us that the opportunity to make new friends was one of the very best things about starting Senior School. Our Peer Mentor Scheme, comprehensive pastoral support and co-curricular programme all combine to ensure new students have plenty of chances to form new friendships from the moment they arrive.
- Consider the claims made about the benefits of single sex education carefully, and remember that you are making a long-term choice. As your son or daughter matures he or she will need to be comfortable with the opposite sex and at ease in a mixed working environment. Being a co-educational School, our students are able to share the sometimes different approaches to learning boys and girls offer; more ideas, more viewpoints, more skills.
- Go with your gut. Even if friends in your social circle favour a particular school, you know your child best and if a place feels right for your family, trust your instincts. Child psychologist Betsy Brown Braun once commented that, as a parent, you are “only as happy as your unhappiest child”, so you have a vested interest in getting it right.
In the process of choosing the right school, I know the wait for the offer letters can be something of a trial but, rather like childbirth, I promise you won’t remember the pain once the delivery is over!